Surgery, eh? It's a funny old game - or a game of two halves - as doctors at Prince Philip Hospital in Llanelli, West Wales, are finding to their cost. Clearly for patient Graham Reeves - the victim of the 'wrong kidney blunder'- it is a tragic business. But the fiasco has also provided a chance for self-confessed 'experts' to wow mortals with the complexities of life at the sharp end. Some 4 million ops involving 'paired organs' are happily carried out each year, says Mark Emberton, assistant director of the clinical effectiveness unit at the Royal College of Surgeons. So, any tricks for surgeons not too sharp on telling left from right?
Well, 'the side could be mixed up if it is not known whether the patient is lying face-up or face-down, ' points out the highly qualified one. Monitor cannot claim medical prowess, but offers the hint that if you can see the side with eyes, nose and a smiley mouth then it is safe to assume the patient is 'faceup'.
Meanwhile, consultant orthopaedic surgeon and Daily Telegraph reader Howard Rutherford points out that performing the wrong operation is a 'constant niggling worry for all practising surgeons'. Indeed, Mr Rutherford, of Darlington Memorial Hospital, suspects that 'many of my colleagues share my feeling of 'there but for fortune. . .'' sadly trailing off, before incriminating the profession further. He offers a novel incentive to keep surgeons' minds on the job: filthy lucre. Mr Rutherford believes glitches could be avoided if surgeons received 'a salary that reflects our true worth'. Wisdom indeed. The 'true worth' of a surgeon, who - given 50/50 odds - is liable to pick the wrong organ, makes an interesting case for performance-related pay.
Monitor learns of a common-sense collaboration between orthopaedics - and hairdressing (see left). Dr John Fairclough found inspiration in a moment of domestic sloth. 'I was in the living room watching my wife comb my daughter's hair, ' says the eagle-eyed surgeon, who learned that plaiting hair can prevent split ends. Enter Errol Willy, an erotically named hairdresser who came to see the doctor with a 'bad knee.' The pair worked together and the 'Welsh Plait' - a way of binding four strands of hamstrings together - is now attracting worldwide interest. Will the humble perm be next?